Wednesday 24 June 2015

How Brent Council leaders nearly lost council tax payers £500k by handing it to contractor

I went to the Full Council meeting on Monday, not a lot happened, appointed a new Chief Executive seems very nice and I understand very capable.  Usual stuff, Cabinet members churn out statistics from the police or officers about what is going on in Brent and selected Labour councilors ask tame question. The opposition tries to ask questions but they are not allowed (no room for opposition in this democracy) or are limited.

The new lead member for Scrutiny Cllr Filson made a speech stating that he was going to scrutinize lots of thing Brent has no control or influence over, well at least it keeps councillors busy. The Scrutiny Committee is however going to hold a scrutiny into the removal of the green bins in Brent.  Cllr Filson, said however it will not be into anything that he believes is not important, like complaints of the members or residents. He firmly said he would decide what is important or not. Well clearly that will save a lot of time for the residents or councilors who were thinking of turning up at the Civic Centre because they might have input and raise issues they think important to them. Truth is what they think does not matter. The only things that matter, is what the lead member thinks is important.

I wonder will he be looking into this?

 In early June 2014, I saw a copy of the green waste collection proposals. I had great concerns about it because it looked like the removal of the green bins had not been thought through and the financial implications, left us subsidising the contractor (Veolia) with Brent ratepayer possibly losing out by up to £500k. I raised my concerns with both the Leader and Deputy Leader and even wrote a report about my concerns and laying out some alternatives, but they did not indicate they would alter the report. The report was due to go to cabinet on the 22nd of July

On the 17th July, 5 days before the Cabinet, I was getting frantic, I emailed the then Head of Legal stating

I intend therefore to write to the district auditor, who will hopefully get me the explanation I require concerning what I believe is a report that disguises savings for the contractor, does not offer Brent residents VFM and is subsidising the private contractor profits via the ratepayers.

All I seek from you is confirmation that you believe the financial implications represent VFM”

The Head of legal replied the same day stating

“I was concerned that you stated what we were proposing was illegal and I confirmed to you legal advice had been given that this was lawful”

I replied the same day stating

 I do intend to continue with my complaint to the auditor as I feel there is a number of Brent officers, who when you ask a question instead of explaining their position, answer with an "officers know best “approach this is not good enough. In the next year or so I will be asked to vote through some horrendous cuts and I therefore believe I have every right and a duty to challenge officers’ views on whether this subsidy is legal and whether we can achieve better VFM.

On the issue of subsidy, I cannot accept without explanation your view, why the ratepayer can carry the burden of the disposal levy for a private contractor.  I intend to be at the Civic Centre tomorrow from 3pm hopefully meeting someone from Chief Finance Officer’s department.  If it’s possible I would appreciate meeting you or your member of staff.

On the 18THJuly I met with the Chief Finance Officer. The Chief Finance Officer grasped the situation immediately and said he would get back to me. The following day I wrote to him confirming what we had spoken about.

Thanks for meeting me yesterday.

Just to confirm you will, make the change to the report and that change reflect that for every 1000 collections above the 17000 Brent will receive an extra £40,000, and if that service was to reach say 50% that the service would product an extra £500,000 approx. However you may not wish to spell it out in exactly that way.

On the 21st July the day before the cabinet meeting the Chief finance office wrote back to me saying

Cllr Duffy
Thanks for your helpful comments
The report will formally be amended at the meeting to show the correct share of risk and opportunity in the contract, that is that we are guaranteed £400,000 and that the sales benefit of volumes above 17,000 accrue to us.



9.2 Veolia will retain any income collected over and above £400,000.

9.2 Veolia will also pass to the council any income collected over and above £400,000. 

This small (Duffy) amendment will make Brent an extra £500K. Last night it was announced by the lead member for environment that there are now 17,000 households signed –up and 100 households are signing up every day. That means Brent Council is getting an extra £20k a week and if it reaches 50%, the amendment will have earned Brent council £ 500K to spend on important services per year. I am very proud of what I achieved, I do things for Kilburn and Brent and for the Labour Party.

You may think Brent Council Labour group thanks me for this. No the leadership of Brent Council Labour group are unforgiving that I forced this amendment, they took me off all committees; many of the Labour group hardly talk to me or shy away. They seat me next to the Tory group (a fate worst than a fate worst than death) as they believe by forcing the amendment I undermined their authority. One member of the Cabinet accused me of bullying officers because I would not let it drop. I am not allowed to speak at full council. If I do members of the cabinet heckle me.

My fear is after all this hard work the (Duffy) bonus will be wasted on vanity projects from officers or members of the cabinet, which will not support the vital services Brent supplies like our home helps.

I am going away for a week’s rest, this blogging is tiring stuff, but I will be back the following week to show other interesting goings on at the council and maybe why St Patrick may not be coming to Kilburn next year and the tale of the missing nomination.

It is interesting that following my last blog about tagging my emails, one Labour councillor said they are right to tag my emails and it was my own fault………!


  1. Excellent work, John. Some fresh air emanating from the council at last instead of the usual stench of corruption and fear. Keep it up.
    And have a good holiday (though I'd avoid going for any cliff walks alone!).

  2. So who was the councillor who said they were right to tag your emails? You need to name names.